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What reverse admissions means for the future of college access

5 principles that make reverse admissions unique

November 18, 2022, By Joe Morrison, Managing Director, Concourse

Much has been written this year about emerging alternatives to the traditional university admissions model. With overall college enrollments declining, institutions need to become more creative in their efforts to grow and diversify their student body. Progressive institutions are looking outside their traditional recruiting channels to find, engage, and admit new students, especially those who are the first in their family to attend college or who come from families with lower incomes.

Direct admissions vs. reverse admissions

“Direct admissions” is an emerging approach in which institutions inform high school seniors up front that they will be accepted if they apply and meet a minimum academic threshold. The students are still required to complete the application process.

While this removes some of the guesswork from the traditional process, it is far from a complete solution. It’s one thing for students to be told that they will be admitted if they apply to a particular institution, but these schools rarely provide tailored information on which academic programs might be a fit, how much a student might be eligible for in scholarships and financial aid, or any other direct guidance. Worst of all, students are still required to send complete (redundant) application packages to each institution if they wish to claim their admission offers.

“Reverse admissions” flips the script entirely by motivating colleges to compete for students rather than the other way around. EAB and its project partners introduced the reverse admissions model in October 2021 through two programs called Greenlight Match (enabling institutions to reach first-generation, low income, and historically underserved students in the US) and Global Match (enabling institutions to reach diverse international students from over 90 countries). More than 125 institutions to date have signed on to one or both programs to serve thousands of aspiring college students.

Greenlight Match and Global Match work by matching students and participating institutions via an alternative admissions platform originally created by Concourse Global, now part of EAB. Aspiring students work with their school counselors to build free, anonymized profiles on an online platform to showcase their academic achievements and interests. The technology then delivers matching student profiles to participating institutions based on each institution’s selection criteria. Colleges review the profiles and make proactive admission and scholarship offers to students, typically within a week or two of the profile being submitted.

5 principles that make reverse admissions unique

EAB’s reverse admissions model overcomes the limitations of direct admissions by sticking to a few key principles:

  1. Achieve equity through simplicity: Students can complete their profile on the platform in 30 minutes and do not have to provide test scores or essays – although they can provide those if they wish. Students have the option of enhancing their profile by adding career aspirations, interests, and any additional materials they would like assessed by admission offices. A counselor, teacher, or other authorized school administrator certifies and attests to the student’s academic credentials. This simplicity makes the admissions platform ideal for students who may have limited family and financial resources. No applications are required and students receive bona fide offers from multiple institutions based on a single profile.
  2. Diversify applicant pools: Institutions have limited time and marketing dollars to spend on student recruitment. By participating in EAB’s Match programs, colleges can make admission offers to students who are outside their usual applicant pool, many of whom may not have considered or even heard of their institution.
  3. Put the power to connect in the hands of students: Offers of acceptance bundled with financial aid are delivered simultaneously to the student and certifying counselor, so that they can discuss the offers thoughtfully and decide whether to explore further. Students can then choose which colleges they wish to connect with directly. Only then can participating colleges access the names and contact details of these students and begin conversations that will help the student make their decision.
  4. Accentuate the positive: There is no rejection on the Concourse platform. Students only get a notification when they receive acceptances. Students can participate in the Match programs early in the traditional college application season, leaving them plenty of time to apply to colleges outside of the Match program if they want. Either way, the admission offers they already have in hand boost their confidence and help them plan their finances.
  5. Focus on yielding students: Most direct admissions systems simply pre-notify students that they are qualified for acceptance. Students still have to apply to the institution, meaning that colleges still have work to do to chase applications. With the Match programs, students have already been admitted on an accelerated timeline, allowing colleges to focus their energy on what’s most important, i.e. engaging in a meaningful process with students to earn their enrollment.

Reverse admissions is not a gimmick or a minor optimization to the traditional process. It’s an entirely new approach to college admission that offers institutions a new way to discover and engage with prospective students while maintaining the integrity of the review process.

Flipping the script on the traditional admission model makes it possible for institutions to roll out the red carpet for diverse and underserved student populations, helping them achieve their goal of earning a college degree.

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